The Philadelphia Flyers 2014-15 season has seen them endure some brutal slumps as well as some extended stretches of encouraging play. After some early and mid-season slumps had people talking about Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the Flyers have now pulled themselves back to within 4 points of a playoff spot. The chances of a playoff berth are very slim, but they still have life.
Within the advanced statistics community, one of the most commonly talked about team statistics is known as PDO. PDO is calculated by adding team shooting percentage to team save percentage, typically resulting in a number around 100%. A higher PDO is good, while a lower PDO is bad. While there are certainly things that a team can do (goaltending, shooting skill) to increase their PDO, short term fluctuations of the stat can often be very highly driven by luck. According the war-on-ice.com, the Flyers PDO is currently sitting at 100.1, meaning that they have had very close to even luck on the season.
Thus, I wanted to take a look at the Flyers’ PDO swings throughout the season, and how they have affected the narratives and the discussion about the team. My intent here is most definitely not to criticize any of the work being cited. I just wanted to explore how luck-driven fluctuations can change the perception and the discussion about a team from fans, analysts, and even coaches.
The season will be broken down further into three screenshots, but the full season (10 game rolling) PDO is pictured below. As you can see, there are some very defined stretches of both good and bad luck for the Flyers.
(Graph via War-On-Ice.com)
1ST SECTION: OCTOBER THROUGH DECEMBER
As you can see, the conversation changed drastically as the Flyers PDO plummeted throughout November. A month that started with the Flyers being right in the playoff picture ended with doubts about Craig Berube’s job security and desparate trade propositions to try and save the season.
2ND SECTION: DECEMBER – MID-JANUARY
December started right where November left off, with discussion about tanking the season for Connor McDavid. As it usually does, the Flyers luck improved throughout the month, presumably fueled by Matt Read eating a cheeseburger before a game. The upwards trend in PDO led to some discussion about the Flyers below average defense “figuring things out” and “playing with more confidence”. Within a month, however, another PDO slump had analysts once again saying to trade away everybody and tank for McDavid.
3RD SECTION: MID-JANUARY – PRESENT
As the Flyers looked to climb out of another PDO slump in the middle of January, discussion predictably arose in regards to the Flyers’ leadership. Certain writers in Philadelphia love to direct blame towards leadership and effort, and it is incredibly unsurprising when these articles coincide with a big PDO slump. Through late January and most of February, a sustained run of above average PDO that was in part driven by the 4th line and Chris VandeVelde helped the Flyers climb back into the playoff race.
As I stated before, this article is not meant to bash any of the writers involved. The Flyers have had many extreme stretches this season in terms of PDO, and those stretches have resulted in extreme opinions at times. During the bad stretches, the team was a contender for the #1 overall pick in the draft. During the better stretches, they are finding themselves back in the playoff race. Despite large upward and downward swings, the Flyers PDO sits right around 100.0 (even), and their current record seems to be a pretty fair representation of what this team actually is.
Below are links to all of the pieces that were cited here:
“Can Ray Emery Be Flyers #1 Goalie?“
“The Flyers… Sleepwalkers for most of the first and second”
“Streaking Flyers idle for a while”
“Flyers… looking rusty after a 5 day layoff”
“Berube Calls Out Flyers Again for Not Competing Hard Enough”
“3 Blockbuster Trades To Save Flyers Season”
“Flyers Coach Craig Berube In Trouble?”
“Berube Might Need Big Week To Prevent Dan Bylsma From Taking His Job”
“Should the Flyers Tank for Top Draft Pick?”
“Snider Calls California Trip a Turnaround for Flyers”
“Read Wonders If Pre Game Cheeseburger Could Help End Slump”
“Read Ends Slump After Spaghetti Dinner”
“Team defense has really improved over the last two weeks”
“Roenick’s Quick Flyers Fix”
“Time for Flyers to Call off the attack…?” (Column has been deleted. Hmm.)
“Flyers Problems A Matter of Leadership?”
“Flyers Show Fight, For A Change”
“Vandevelde… scored his 5th goal in last 8 games”
“Flyers hope break helps… Mason Sizzing”
“Flyers within 5 points of playoff spot”
“Flyers playing better, and smarter”